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Celebration of culture

Michael Ben Ortiz looks anything but emotional, but talk to him about the history of his people and his voice grows thick with tears.

Ortiz, a Choctaw Indian, was one of several hundred people who gathered Sunday on a sun-drenched slope off Lake Vera Purdon Road in Nevada City celebrating Indigenous Peoples Days.

In a country where history rarely crosses the threshold of 300 years, Sunday’s festival celebrated cultures as old as earth itself.



“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together to rejuvenate our kinship with the natural world of the Americas and the colonized inhabitants,” said Ortiz, one of the coordinators of the ceremony. “This celebration is a response to the colonization process brought to the New World by Columbus. It’s also an opportunity to respond to the atrocities of Columbus with the ultimate positive vibrations which heals our land and our soul wound.”

Indigenous Peoples Days is not just a celebration of American Indian culture but every culture that has been oppressed by colonial power, Ortiz said.




Incidentally, Sunday’s events included a Hawaiian dance as well as Brazilian Capoeira, besides traditional American Indian music and dance.

The four-day ceremony started Oct. 5 and ends today. It’s hosted by the Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe and the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe.

“When we say ‘indigenous,’ we talk about people who are very much connected to the land they live on, and they love and respect it,” said Joan Buffington, another event coordinator. “Many of us who are not natives live here in and around Nevada City because we feel this connection with this area – the Yuba River and the trees. We honor the Maidu people who are the natives.”

As an American of European descent, helping in coordinating Indigenous Peoples Days is a way for Buffington to apologize to American Indians for the tribulations they had to undergo in the hands of the early European settlers, she said.

Another goal of the ceremony is to instill the age-old culture in the younger generations of American Indians.

“We are very, very conscious of how important it is to actively involve youth to help create a healthy future,” Buffington said. “Today here, the youth are learning to cook. Some are teaching and others are learning traditional Maidu games. Tomorrow a young woman will be leading a panel of youth discussing the issue of youth.”

Indigenous Peoples Days drew members from at least 15 American Indian tribes across the country, Ortiz estimated. About 200 -300 people attended the gathering Sunday, he said.

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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